Few things are as terrifying as a massive wildfire. In the face of a raging inferno, there’s nowhere to hide, nowhere to run. Often our most sophisticated fire-fighting tools are impotent.
So when God describes Himself in Scripture as a “consuming fire,” it’s enough to make us sit up and pay attention. What does this mean? Why would God say such a thing?
God first revealed that He is a consuming fire when insisting that His people worship Him alone. God gave Himself the name Jealous (Exodus 34:14).
He’s not okay with us using Him for what we can get, then turning around and giving our hearts to other things. God wants us for Himself—not because He’s insecure or needy, but because it’s obscene and absurd for creatures to reject their perfect Creator in favor of something less.
And yet we are all guilty. We turn away from God and look elsewhere for salvation and satisfaction. This is why the Bible is full of fiery imagery—fire typically represents judgment.
God, in His holiness, must judge sin. Throughout the Old Testament, we see fire literally consuming rebellious people in judgment (see Leviticus 10:2; Numbers 11:1; Deuteronomy 9:3; 2 Kings 1:10–14).
The fact that God “is a consuming fire” would be terrible news if not for Christ. On the cross, Jesus willingly endured the full wrath of God’s righteous judgment against sin.
He took the fiery punishment we deserved. As a result, those who trust in Jesus no longer have to worry about the consuming fire of God’s judgment. In Christ we are forgiven.
For believers, God becomes, as it were, a different kind of consuming fire—He’s a purifying fire. At salvation, He consumes our sin and guilt.
Then for the rest of our lives, God purifies and transforms us, through His indwelling Spirit, in the same way impurities are burned away during the refining process of gold.
We see a picture of this in the Old Testament as God dramatically removed negative influences from within the Hebrew camp (Numbers 16).
It comes down to a choice: Either we trust the God who is a consuming fire to consume our sin and guilt in Christ, or we rebelliously reject Christ and experience the consuming fires of divine judgment.
What biblical stories remind you that God is a consuming fire?